How the West was won: Kevin Harvick dominates to win in Las Vegas

Another week, another dominating day for Kevin Harvick.  A week after leading the most laps and winning at Atlanta, Harvick repeated the feat to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Harvick led a race high 214 of the 267 laps in route to the 39th win of his career.

“As you look at the last two weeks and our 1.5-mile program in general it has been really good since I started here at SHR,” Harvick said. “They put a lot of effort into everything we do from every standpoint to get these cars going like they are.”

The only issue for Harvick came after he won the second stage (he also won the first) when a hiccup on pit road saw him come out fourth on lap 164. He had the lead again by lap 194 and from there never looked back.

“We had some trouble getting through traffic there,” Harvick said. “That was our worst run as far as where the car was. I don’t know if it was just the car, tire set, handling, whatever it was. We were just stuck in traffic and needed to come make an adjustment. We got everything situated on pit road and got a good restart. It was definitely not as good in traffic but when it was out front, it was on time.”

The win marked the fifth time in his career that Harvick has won back to back races, the last coming when he won at Vegas then Phoenix in 2015.

Kyle Busch, who started 13th came home second. He was the only threat to Harvick in the closing laps but came up one spot short.  Busch led 10 laps on the day after he and Martin Truex Jr. stayed out late I the going during a round of green flag stops. Both drivers had the entire field a lap down, but a timely caution never appeared, and both had to pit.

“You know, just had a decent day, I guess,” Busch said.  “Certainly would have liked to have been able to run down the 4 or catch the 4 and put on a race, but they were just so far out there and so far class of the field all day long, I don’t think anybody was really keeping up with them.”

Truex finished fourth just behind Kyle Larson; pole sitter Ryan Blaney was fifth.

“The first run we weren’t great and we got better,” Blaney said. “I thought our strongest run was right before the last green flag pit stops. We lost a little speed the last run there. Overall it was a good weekend for us. That is what we need to do, just have good, consistent weekends like that. Hopefully we can do the same for the rest of this west coast swing and the rest of the season. We will see.”

The only two caution flags outside of the stages saw Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott crash out when Busch got loose exiting turn 4 just after a restart on lap 182. Busch slid up and into the wall collecting Elliott and putting both out of the race.    Jamie McMurray slid out of turn 2 on lap 176 while running 11th and hit the wall. The races final caution, four, came out and McMurray was also done for the day.

Brad Keselowski was sixth, Joey Logano seventh, Erik Jones eighth, Paul Menard ninth and Aric Almirola 10th.

Harvick was so dominate that when the checkered fell, only cars were on the lead lap.

Perhaps no one was happier to finish 12th in a race than Jimmie Johnson. After two struggling weeks, it looked as though the team would struggle again when prior to the race Sunday, his car failed NASCAR inspection three times. NASCAR ejected his car chief and sent Johnson to the back of the field. He would go down two laps at one point but was able to get back in the lead lap in the closing stages for his first top 15 finish of the season.

“Every outing we are learning more about it,” Johnson said of the new Camaro the Chevy teams are running this season. “There is a piece of performance that is familiar from last year, so I think we have some work to do ourselves underneath the body with the chassis and the set-up of the car.  But, today I was in a lot of different aero situations that at first, I was flinching in and then I grew very comfortable with and kept charging and driving through.  I think the body is definitely helping the car, we’ve just got some other stuff to sort out to go along with it and kind of find the sweet spot for the car too.”

The western swing continues next week as NASCAR heads to the ISM Raceway in Phoenix for the TicketGuardian 500. Live coverage will be on Fox starting at 3:00 p.m. ET with the green flag coming just after 3:30 p.m. ET.  Harvick, a California native leads all active Cup drivers with 8 wins at the 1-mile track.

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